Diocesan report on Messy Churches

Guildford Diocese has taken the trouble to write a report on Messy Church in their diocese. They've done so because the Church Army Research Unit found that Messy Church is such a significant part of their fresh expressions scene.

Greenbelt 2012

Jane writes: Messy mud, glorious Messy mud! Well, actually, the Messy Greenbelt team escaped doing Messy Paradise in the mud as we had a great indoor venue this year. There were 450 of all ages who gathered for crafts and celebration with parachute prayers and Messy crafts and activities before joining other worship styles for a pageant and joint service. Thank you, Team Messy, all those who came and God for an abundance of blessings. Greenbelt's 40th birthday next year!

Messy Abbey

Jane and I had a great time at Dorchester Abbey on Sunday celebrating BRF's 90th anniversary as only Messy Church can. Jelly featured, but not to eat, only to try to build on, as the theme was 'Building Up!' (and the little known parable of Jesus called 'The man who built his house on the jelly'). And of course there was a wide range of activities to explore the idea of BRF building people up in their spiritual lives, the Diocese of Oxford building people up through their churches and Messy Church building up family faith and fun together, all with Christ at the centre.

Messy Weekend

A real privilege and joy to share last weekend with 30-odd fellow Messy enthusiasts and to have another fun time exploring Messy themes and enjoying learning from and with each other. We had a Father's Day theme this year and enjoyed the Prodigal Son story for our final Messy Church session. As before, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and included these comments:

Northern Ireland Messiness

Kevin Metcalfe kindly wrote this report on the Christian Resources Exhibition Messy Church seminar: Report on CRE Belfast Messy Church Seminar 20 February 2012

Messy Denmark

Monday I flew out with the gloriously few other passengers to Billund, where Inger was waiting despite the plane being ten minutes early and the baggage circling forlornly before I even reached the carousel. Lovely to see Inger again and catch up with her after two years: good job her English is so impressive as my Danish still consists of only the words Mange tak and Hej. Oh, and I've added schlachterhus to my vocabulary. I knew when I heard it I wouldn't be able to forget it: yes, slaughterhouse. Why can't I remember something useful?

General Synod

I had a happy time with Richard, my boss, at the BRF stand at the Church of England's General Synod last week. (I was disappointed not to be given a Women Bishop's tea towel but did come away with Book of Common Prayer mints, so the day was not in vain.) We caught up with several friends, who were kind enough to stop by the stand, made new acquaintances and were really chuffed to see a Messy Church question had been posted and answered:

Hand in Hand

We had a fun time at the Hand-in-Hand Children and Family Ministry Conference in Eastbourne this weekend. For the first time we were running a whole stream on Messy Church alongside the other seminars. Four of our Regional Coordinators joined us: Charis Lambert from Morden, Sharon Lakin from Worthing, Janet Tredrea from Truro and Emma Pettifer from Worcester, and for me it was such a treat to listen to their experience and wisdom as they shared their thoughts on different aspects of Messy Church.

Messy Church Young Leaders Day

'We should have more say!' wrote Abigail (14). Abigail's sentiment was one shared by the Methodist Church and Messy Church, so it made perfect sense to run a joint event, inviting teenagers from all over the UK to come together for a day looking at the role of teenagers in Messy Churches.

Messy Weekend

Jane writes: They came from Scotland, North Yorkshire, the Midlands and Cambridgeshire, Durham and Oxfordshire; adults and children, singing, praying, getting messy; listening to each other's stories, sharing worries and concerns. They made crafts, made new friends, created dramas, played games. They laughed, hammered nails, learned skills, wrote in clay. They met with God in the Mini Retreat, were affirmed and blessed before God in the Messy Church session consultations and heard about the worldwide Messy Church. Did we really do all of that in a weekend? Yes and more!

Who Let The Dads Out?

  On Saturday Messy Church joined Who Let The Dads Out? at their annual conference in Stockport with workshops, fun craft activities and keynote speakers. Stories were shared, craft challenges were judged and a wonderful feeling of God at work in the community was heard.

Aussie 8 August anniversary

Brisbane! Sunshine! Warmth! Holiday! Wedding anniversary! And this is midwinter: lunch outside by the waterfall of the art gallery. It just doesn't get better. In the evening we were taken to have a meal with a Messy Church team from a local Anglican church, who had come across the concept when their curate, Jeanette Jamieson, was asking a Fresh Expressions adviser how to build on their Mainly Music successes. They've done four Messy Churches and welcome between 100 and 180 people at each one: formidable.

Aussie 6 August Adelaide adieu

The last day of the 'Church &...' Conference with a few different people as well as - by now - old friends to grin at and laugh with. I had a couple of keynotes to give on discipleship and all-age worship. It's been fascinating to see how much people appear to have appreciated the storytelling side of what I had to offer. On sober reflection, this is probably because scripture is far more informative and life-changing than my own limited experience and wisdom.

Aussie 5 August enculturalisation

A second keynote today while Paul (my husband) and Arthur (my son) prowled round Adelaide. It's fun to spot the cultural changes. To my astonishment, the 'Stone the crows!' line in my version of The Sower got a huge cheer. I hadn't twigged the Crows are the local footie team. Very serendipitous. And I did proudly manage to make Zacchaeus climb the tree 'like a possum' instead of 'like a squirrel', while Mrs Littlebottom earned dollars and cents when she went busking, not pounds and pence.

Aussie 4 August: Adelaide

As the Uniting Church's 'Church &...' conference began with a rerun of last night's Messy Church, hosted by the Lefevre team, we felt simply part of the team, which was perfect. Alas, I had been given the activity of the Smelly Plague Pots (rotten fish, old socks, blue cheese - you get the picture), so, far from having the chance to chat to people, I noticed they got as far from me as possible. At least I hope that was the reason.

Aussie 3 August

The last half of the journey to Adelaide across big big countryside between Mt Gambier and South Australia (SA): a moment of panic seeing threatening signs up wanting us to get rid of all fruit into quarantine bins before we hit the state. We dutifully disposed of an orange, feeling rather silly and 'surely it can't mean an orange'-ish. But as, when I later reported the incident during one of my talks, it got a resounding cheer, we obviously did the right thing.

Aussie blog ctd

A pause in our Odyssey round Oz to reflect a little on what’s been happening. We’ve been in this vast and amazing country a week now – unbelievable as it’s shot past so quickly. The Melbourne leg of our trip finished yesterday and we’re in a sort of no-man’s land between Melbourne and Adelaide, having driven along the Great Ocean Road as far as Mt Gambier, where we have just settled into a very fine b&b complete with Guard Lambs, a King Charles spaniel, a herd of cows and assorted ducks and chickens. And a guinea pig but I haven’t yet made its acquaintance.

An Australia Hoorah!

We've had a really great day doing a full day of Messy Church for the 155 people, who had come from all over Oz - folk have FLOWN here from Western Australia and from the Northern Territory! It all feels very surreal and humbling. They were a lovely, warm, generous crowd, who gave a huge amount of support and positive vibes, and it does feel as if lots will happen as a result of their hearing for themselves what Messy Church is and can be.

Merseyside Messy Meet-up

Jane writes:Only two hours and so much to share - a wonderful morning in Waterloo with 17 local churches represented and nearly 40 folk sharing their messy stories so far. Issues which came up during the table talk time:

Winsford Fiesta

Jane, connoisseuse of many a buffet lunch, writes: Winsford Fiesta seemed to go really well and I loved working with Alan and Helen who had important input and messy sense of humour to make the day go along with a swing. The 'light lunch' turned out to be the biggest ham salad in the world and to die for desserts! Some email feedback so far: Thankyou so much for our training day today at Trinty Methodist Church in Winsford. I really enjoyed it. Keep spreading 'Messy Church as I believe it is God's will.

Northern Ireland

OK, think uninhibited welcome and hospitality: that's what I got from the people of Bangor and surroundings when I sallied forth at the weekend to lead a Fiesta there. Kevin Metcalfe of the Church Army had done a fantastic job of publicising the event and we had about 70 people present from the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church and possibly the Presbyterian Church, but by the end of the day I was so confused about denominations and politics and not making any jokes about drink that there could have been another 15 denominations represented and I wouldn't have noticed.

International Forum report

Yes, I have been onlineally silent for a week or so, but in real life haven't stopped talking for the last week as it was our long-awaited International Forum at the BRF office in Abingdon. It was of course great fun and a huge privilege to spend time with four dynamic people from Canada and Australia and to discover those little things that add colour to a previously email-only relationship, an Aussie addiction to CocoPops being but one.

Greenbelt 2010

Just back from Greenbelt - the Christian Arts Festival in Cheltenham. It's our second year there with Messy Church and once again we had fun! A brilliant team of leaders from Cowplain, Liverpool and Hartlepool with members of the Barnabas Team, and ranging in age from Edward and Joshua (whose contribution was more on the non-verbal side) through Jack and Molly who added energy and kept us on our toes, through our enthusiastic teenagers Duncan, Judith and Arthur and our, shall we say, more mature team members made our joy complete.

Keswick Convention

Jane Leadbetter and Jane Butcher took a Messy Team to Keswick earlier in the summer. Jane Leadbetter writes: The last Wednesday in July and the first Wednesday in August, some of us were invited to Keswick, in the Lake District, to the annual Christian Convention, to put on a first ever Keswick Messy Church showcase. Volunteer Messy Church leaders and coordinators came from Durham, Blackburn, Chester, Wrexham, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Liverpool to create a Messy Creation theme for anyone who had booked in.


What an eventful weekend. I'm writing this in Glasgow airport between flights, and looking out on tarmac seems most peculiar after seeing only peat, lochs and voes for the last four days. I went on Friday with lots of preconceived ideas: that Shetland would be years behind the mainland, that it would be suspicious of outsiders and that it would be just another chunk of Scotland. I was wrong.

Christian Resources Exhibition

We were delighted to be asked by the organisers of the CRE to host a contained stream within the Exhibition on the theme of Messy Church last week. I have to be honest and admit that I had no idea how it would work out and pictured the team miserably twiddling their thumbs in a large, echoing, empty hall. But no - we had well over 100 people signed up to come and well over 100 came and stayed for the whole day!

Jane in Sutton Coldfield

Today's Fiesta in Sutton Coldfield was privileged to have Bishop Andrew Watson doing the welcome and introduction. He was excellent. Although he could give only 20-30 minutes before heading off to Deanery Synod, he had taken the time to write something specifically about the values of Messy Church, the reality of 'mess' in people's lives and the way in which God can and does break through in the mess. He is such a gift to us in Birmingham and he really showed his support to Messy Church and BRF in general today.

Changing the Landscape

In my previous blog I mentioned Lindsey who's working with me for five weeks as part of her course at Moorlands Bible College. I don't know what the rest of her colleagues are doing, but I suspect Lindsey's Friday in Lincoln might have been slightly different from the experiences of many of them.

Children's Ministry Conference Eastbourne

Hand in Hand - an excellent title for a conference on children's and family ministry, as it's all about partnership with churches, supportive organisations like S.U. and Barnabas, the children's and family workers and the children and families themselves. We had a great time over the weekend, meeting so many friends old and new. I was worried that no-one would come to the Messy Church seminar as everyone knows about it already, but about a hundred people came and very few fell asleep.


The Poole Messy Church leaders had arranged a meeting over morning coffee to chat and find out how to support each other, and very kindly invited me along. Leaders from Parkstone URC / St Peter's, Longfleet Baptist and Parkstone Baptist told their stories and shared their joys and sorrows, and I listened and filled in a little about how we at BRF can support them in all the brilliant stuff they're doing.

Westminster Abbey

It was a great privilege to be invited to join in the Christingle service at Westminster Abbey, organised for local school children by the Children's Society. I had a fabulous time, warmly welcomed by the Children's Society staff, who are an amazing group of people.

Messy Forum in Liverpool

There are many pictures of the Holy Spirit, but I've never seen one of him bouncing about like a puppy, gleefully springing around to get people to play with him. But that's what it feels like on the Messy scene in Liverpool. There is so much going on and it's so vibrant and full of life! The latest event was a Messy Forum for Messy Church leaders, organised by Jane Leadbetter, the regional coordinator for Liverpool and Liverpool Diocesan Children's Adviser, and David Bell, the Diocesan Children's Adviser for Chester Diocese.


Just a quick note on how the research into Messy Church is panning out. As you know, we very much want to reflect on all that's happening in Messy Church so that we practitioners and the Church as a whole learn from it, have solid cause for rejoicing, can discern helpful ways forward and generally continue to grow the kingdom in wonderful ways.

Lee Abbey

Spent last week at Lee Abbey in beautiful North Devon, leading a stream on Messy Church for about 20 people who varied between those already running a Messy Church to those who had never heard of it and just fancied a week at Lee Abbey. It's a great place to think about all the Messy Church themes, as the community puts so many of them into practice.

Round Table

What a fantastic time we had - 18-20 of us, regional coordinators and sympathetic friends - gathered together to talk 'mess' for 24 hours. It was such fun, such a luxury to be able to concentrate on some of the big issues and to glean each other's wisdom thereupon. I came away thinking how privileged we are to have such thoughtful, wise and experienced people taking an interest in Messy Church.

Greenbelt - mess in the long now

Where do I start? The fun of coming together as an all-age team from across the UK armed with bags and crates of sparkles and cardboard, flowers and snacks, pitta bread and candle wax? The excitement of seeing the queue form outside the marquee and the Messy Church Full Up sign go out? The rather sheepish admission from the stewards that there were probably around 250 people squeezed in, on and off, during the hour?


Telford is Jane's stamping ground, rather than mine, but I'd been asked up by the group running the local Mission-Shaped Ministry course to lead an evening session on 'Children and All Age', so to make use of the time, we added a Messy Church session the following morning: to our surprise, especially given that 60 people were already signed up for a Fiesta with Jane on the Saturday, over 80 people booked for this session, with another 40 having to be turned away. Who says midweek isn't a good time to have events?

Genes and Sheep

I was privileged to join Dave Male and many pioneer ministers at Ridley Hall recently, for a stimulating conference about Pioneer Ministry. If nothing else, do have a think about your team of leaders in Messy Church: it may be that you are growing some people for whom lay or ordained pioneer ministry might be the next step.

Children's Ministry Conference

What fun it was (as well as a privilege) to speak about Messy Church at the Children's Ministry Conference again this year. A lovely crowd of people, most of whom seemed not to have come across Messy Church before, so very enterprising of them to come to a seminar on it when there was so much else on offer. Even my panic at running a PowerPoint on someone else's hardware were dispersed by Graham Nunn stepping in nobly with his laptop and generously playing the role of glamorous assistant for the hour. So all I had to do was enthuse.